Day 75, Friday, September 28, 2018
Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Independence, Missouri
After camping in a small, family owned campground called Hanson Hills (they also do taxidermy!) somewhere between St. Louis and Independence, Missouri, I drove for a few hours across the state. I was doing a bit of a quick reset through the Midwest so I could get to the West, where I wanted to spend more time. It meant I had to make some sacrifices!
I ended up in Independence, Missouri at about 12:30 pm, and immediately headed to the Visitor Center at the Harry S Truman National Historic Site. I signed up for the 1 pm tour of Truman’s Home.
The Truman home is a large, white Queen-Anne Victorian style home that was built by Bess Truman’s grandfather in 1867. He ran a successful lumber business, so no expense was spared in making the home a showpiece. It is pretty!
The Trumans were a close knit family, with their daughter Margaret continuing to travel with the Trumans on the campaign trail and spending time at the White House into adulthood. They enjoyed music, with Harry Truman playing the piano, and Margaret accompanying as a classically trained soprano.
My tour was interesting. After Harry Truman died in 1972, his wife Bess continued to live in the home until her death in 1982. She donated the home to the National Park Service at that time, along with all the furnishings and personal items in the home. The piano and music that Truman loved to play is there. So is the calendar that Bess had hanging on the wall in the kitchen from the year she died. The damaged linoleum floor is even original.
Sadly, the tour only includes the first floor of the home, as the second floor is unstable and unsafe for visitors. You also can’t take photos inside the home…
The last car that Harry owned is in the garage; a 1972 Chrysler Newport. He only had it for 6 months before he passed away, and then his wife used it until she died. Even still, it only has 19,000 miles. The license plate, 5745, was specially requested by Truman, as it commemorates VE Day, the end of World War II in Europe. It was also a day before his birthday. The license plate number has been permanently retired.
The historic site also includes other homes in the neighborhood that are open to the public on a self-guided tour, and I checked those out as well. The Noland, Frank Wallace and George Wallace homes are there; the Nolands were Truman’s cousins and the Wallaces were his brother-in-laws. It isn’t common anymore for the relatives to all live so close! They are all much more simple than the Truman home but interesting to see.
I took a walk around the block and checked out some of the other homes in the neighborhood. It seemed like a nice place to live! I also saw a mule drawn wagon ride go by with some late season tourists having a good time. I would also really love to visit the Jackson County Historical Society and their 1859 preserved County Jail. It looked so cool!
I drove by the Harry Truman Library but decided not to stop, as the price was a bit steep for a quick stopover. Truman and Bess are buried there, but their graves are inside the museum, so I’ll have to check that out on a return visit. The ranger had recommended A Little BBQ Joint for good Kansas City style BBQ, so I stopped in there for a late lunch. I had the combo sandwich with pulled pork and brisket, and it was so delicious! They had three levels of kick in their sauce; I tried the Sweet Sister and the Mad Housewife. I also got some ribs to go for the next day.
When I left, I decided to check out the Truman Farm. Truman moved in with his family on this farm in 1906, giving up a hefty bank salary ($100 per month) to do it. He lived with his parents, grandmother, sister, brother, and hired hands. The farmhouse had no plumbing or electricity. He spent eleven years doing heavy physical labor around the farm, until he left to join the military in 1917, to serve in World War I. The day I visited, the farm wasn’t open, so I just spent a few minutes outside, taking photos and checking out the place. I always find it so fascinating to stand where Presidents stood.
Although it was time to get back on the road, there was a lot to see in Independence and I would like to return!